A gift given by a New Zealand soldier fighting in World War 1 to a young English schoolgirl has not been forgotten, nearly a century on.

And now the daughter of that schoolgirl is hoping to track down relatives of that soldier.

The Wanganui Chronicle was recently contacted by Christine Jermey, who lives in Norfolk, England. Mrs Jermey is looking for relatives of Private Mack Wereta, a soldier from Waitotara, who sent Mrs Jermey's mother, Violet Fryer, a little booklet in 1918.

"On the death of my mother I inherited this booklet and I often wondered if I could find anything about this young man," Mrs Jermey said.


She had little to go on other than the printed words "Dated Mother's Day 12th May 1918 in the field in France" and the serial number 16/783.

There was also a little hand-written poem in English and Maori which read: "Although I am absent in body, I am with you in spirit, linked with the beautiful bonds of love."

The name Mack Wereta came up after Mrs Jermey contacted Archives New Zealand and gave them the serial number.

Mrs Jermey said she believed her mother had sent Mr Wereta a little gift known as a "Princess Mary's box". These gifts were embossed brass boxes containing cigarettes, tobacco or sweets.

"School children at the time sent Princess Mary's boxes to the men in France. I presume Mack was sent one of these by my mum and this booklet was a thank you for it," Mrs Jermey said.

Mack Wereta was born on April 14, 1893 in Wanganui. He joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force as a private in July 1915, bound for Egypt.

His official army record lists Mr Wereta's occupation as labourer, and before joining the army he had been employed in Johnsonville.

However, his address was listed as Waitotara and his wife, Raina Rangiare, was living at Kauangaroa.

During his service he was awarded the British War Medal and the Star.

Mr Wereta was discharged from the army in June 1919 and went to live at Kauangaroa.

His son, Private Oliver Maketu Wereta, fought in World War 2 and was killed in June 1942, aged 27. Mrs Jermey said she hoped relatives of Mr Wereta were still alive and living in the Wanganui area.

"Of course I realise it is a very long time ago," she said.

If you have any further information about Mack Wereta, Christine Jermey can be contacted via email at marchris18@talktalk.net.